Environment Planning Welsh Language

Planning (Wales) Bill reaches its final Assembly stage

18 May 2015

Image from Geograph by Eric Jones.  Licenced under the Creative Commons
Image from Geograph by Eric Jones. Licensed under the Creative Commons

The Assembly will debate the Planning (Wales) Bill for a final time in Plenary on 19 May.  The Minister Carl Sargeant introduced the original Bill on 7 October 2014 – see our earlier blog post.  Since then it has been considered in detail and amended by the Environment & Sustainability Committee (Stages 1 and 2) and by the Assembly (Stage 3) as a whole.

The key changes made since the Bill was first introduced are as follows:

  • A statutory “sustainable development” requirement that applies to the preparation of development plans and the consideration of planning applications, so that the development or use of land contributes to the economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales.   This links the planning function with the carrying out of sustainable development by public bodies as required by the Well-being of Future Generations Act 2015.  The Environment & Sustainability Committee had recommended a statutory purpose for planning based on the definition suggested by the Independent Advisory Group.
  • Changes as to how the impact of development on the Welsh language is considered in the planning system.  The first of these is an amendment to the Town & Country Planning Act 1990 to clarify that impact on the use of the Welsh Language can be a material consideration when determining a planning application.   The second is a requirement to undertake assessments of the likely effects of Development Plans (the National Development Framework, Strategic Development Plans, Local Development Plans) on the use of the Welsh language.  Amendments that would also have required language assessments for some major planning applications were not agreed.
  • Some changes to the proposals for the new National Development Framework (NDF – replacing the Wales Spatial Plan).  The main changes are a statutory 12 week period for public consultation on a draft NDF and a requirement for the Welsh Ministers to respond to any resolution or committee recommendation on the draft NDF.
  • The removal of voting rights for nominated members on the new Strategic Planning Panels that will be responsible for producing Strategic Development Plans in some parts of Wales.  Also a new requirement that at least half of the local planning authority members of a panel to be present for a meeting to be quorate.  The Welsh Ministers can now also issue regulations about the make‑up of strategic planning panels, including their gender balance.
  • The Welsh Ministers already had the power to require local planning authorities to merge and form a Joint Planning Board in order to carry out some planning functions, but National Parks were excluded from this.  The original version of the Bill extended this power to allow such a Board to produce a Local Development Plan, but continued to exclude National Parks.   The Bill now includes a new power for the Welsh Ministers to transfer the development management (such as dealing with planning applications) or hazardous substance functions of National Park Authorities to Joint Planning Boards.  A Joint Planning Board proposal involving all or part of a National Park would however require the formal approval of the Assembly.   A further amendment prevents a National Park Authority from being directed by the Minister to produce a joint Local Development Plan with another planning authority.
  • The Bill now includes a statutory timescale of 36 weeks for the Welsh Ministers to determine Development of National Significance (DNS) applications, although the 36 week period can be changed with the formal consent of the Assembly.
  • The Welsh Ministers must now consult with all local planning authorities about the criteria to be used for designating a local planning authority as ‘failing’ and these criteria must then be formally approved by the Assembly.
  • The Bill as introduced would have removed the legal requirement for Design & Access Statements to be prepared for planning applications.  The Welsh Government originally intended to remove this requirement for these statements from secondary legislation as well but planned to replace this with a number of other actions “more likely to achieve good design and inclusive access”.  This part of the Bill has now been removed so the statutory requirement remains.
  • The Bill as introduced contained a list of trigger events that would have excluded a person’s right to register land as a Town or Village Green.  These included the identification of land in a development plan or the submission of a planning application.  These restrictions have already been introduced in England.  The Bill now has a much shorter list of trigger events that is restricted to the granting of planning permission, or its equivalent.   Also the proposal to reduce the period in which an registration application can be made from two years to one year has been dropped, so remains at two years.

The latest version of the Planning (Wales) Bill as amended at Stage 3 is available from the Assembly’s website.

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